Summer Safety Tips: Preventing Hot Car Deaths

By Don Finley

Summer is here and for many of us it’s a time to kick back, relax and enjoy the hot summer days.  However, it’s important to remember that those hot summer days can be dangerous, especially to children, who are more susceptible to the heat. And one of the places kids are most vulnerable are in hot cars.

According to Dr. Mark Muir, the trauma medical director at University Hospital, “Kids are smaller and they just have less surface area so they can’t get rid of heat as quickly. Adults, we sweat, we get rid of heat a lot faster. In kids, it just accumulates and skyrockets.”

This means leaving them in alone in a hot car, even for a few minutes, can put them in immense danger.

“When the sun is out, even on cloudy days, the inside of the car can become much hotter than the temperature outside.” Jennifer Northway, the Director of Adult & Pediatric Injury Prevention at University Hospital says, “Even on an 80-degree day, the inside of a closed car can quickly exceed 100 degrees. Cracking a window does not help keep the inside of a car cool.”

Dr. Muir says that kids left in hot cars “Can become severely dehydrated and their kidneys can start to shut down, but even more concerning is it can actually cause brain damage.”

What Can I Do to Prevent Hot Car Deaths?

First, it’s important to always remember to never leave a child alone in the car, for any length of time. It’s also important to remind your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. You can share this information by posting flyers at your child’s nursery or school or even through social media.

Dr. Muir also suggests setting a reminder for yourself when traveling, “Set your purse, your briefcase, your cell phone, your backpack, something by the child in the backseat so that you won’t forget when you get out.”

There is also new car technology and sensors you can purchase designed to help care givers remember their children in hot cars.

How SafeKids San Antonio and University Hospital Are Helping

SafeKids San Antonio is a coalition of almost 30 members in San Antonio and is led by University Hospital. The purpose of this coalition is to keep kids in the community safe, healthy and injury free.

This summer, SafeKids and University Hospital are reminding care givers to check their back seats through the mobile temperature display. This vehicle shows how quickly and how much the interior of a car can heat up. The vehicle will be loaned out to community awareness events and will be on display in University Hospital’s trauma center through September.

Additionally, SafeKids and University Hospital are partnering with the Texas Department of Transportation in a regional campaign to bring awareness of hot car deaths to the community. They will be displaying safety messages throughout the community during the summer.

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